Getting ready to farrow

Well, I am not but one of our Old Spot sows is. Any sow getting ready to farrow out creates a little nest for her soon-to-be piglets. I was out doing stuff and saw this sow making a nest just down the hill from the house. I was a little slow to capture her making her nest, but you will be able to see it in the video. Also, I couldn’t resist helping out the nest process by creating a quick little rain shelter. She probably didn’t need the help, but I did it anyways.

About 3 hours after I took this video, she farrowed out 12 piglets. I will shot a video of her litter soon and get up that upload as well.

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Open Ranch Weekend – You wish you had been here

Hay bale tour about to start

Here everyone is - all loaded up and ready for the adventure. You can see me up at the front of trailer, waving my arms (my constant pose for the weekend). It may look I am giving safety instructions about how to exit the trailer safely in the event of an emergency, but actually I am saying something profound - I am sure of it.

Over the weekend, we welcomed 40 folks out to the ranch for a weekend of fun and food.  It was a blast – you wish you had been here. One thing I am learning is that most folks who buy our meat are folks that I enjoy spending time with. I always knew this to be true with folks I meet at farmer’s markets, but those interactions are on neutral ground and only last minutes. This weekend, we had folks here at the ranch for days, and I realized that at the end of the weekend I liked them more than when they first showed up. No smelly fish here.

What did we do that was so fun? Well, not much but a lot. The whole idea of the weekend was to invite folks up to experience the ranch like we do. I didn’t have any major events planned or rigid schedules to adhere to. The only thing that I knew we were going to do was eat, check out the animals and take a quick little tour up to the lake.  Having such a low key schedule was the key to our successful weekend.

Upon arrival, I greeted folks and said, “ok here you are, that’s where the tents go, here is where the food goes, now go explore and don’t burn the ranch down.” And off they went. We had an expedition of boys exploring the creek, we had folks checking out the chicks in the brooder, visiting the field coops, and saying howdy the pigs. It was a bit like a covey of quail scattering, but like the quail, I knew that they would all coalesce once I fired up the hay bale ride.

Once the truck was fired up and people started to hear the rumor of “ranch tour,” they quickly came and got on the trailer. Since people had trickled in over a couple of hours, this was the first time everyone was gathered in one place and it was surprising how many folks actually showed up for this.  Off we went in the trailer, me a little tense hauling 35 folks on a strange trailer driving a borrowed truck and the folks excited by the adventure. It all went well, although the creek crossing was a little, how shall we say, narrow? Apart from a few paint scratches, we arrived at a piece of range land that I have always found fascinating.

I won’t  recreate the lecture now, but I used that piece of ground to highlight 4 important aspects of range management:

  1. The difference between annuals and perennials range plants
    1. Simply put: annuals mostly bad, perennials almost entirely good.
  2. How the timing of the “second bite” can have massive effects on the balance between annuals and perennials
    1. Simply put again: Make sure the plant looks like it hasn’t been grazed before you graze it again.
  3. How we use fencing to manage our grazing in such a manner to encourage native perennials
    1. Since we no longer have predators to move grazing animals around, we need fences
  4. Finally, how all of these management practices and philosophies are creating a vibrant and healthy range land.

After this “lecture,” which consisted of much arm waving and more passion than fact, we loaded back up and headed home for the BBQ.  I had set this up as a potluck BBQ. We provided the meat and everyone else provided the sides. Well, with so many people coming, we had food coming out of our ears. It was awesome. I can’t even begin to list the buffet that we had lined out. But I can say that by the time people had start to talk again (ever notice that when the food is good, no one talks?), there wasn’t much left.  Special thanks to my uncle, Mike, who came up from Oakland to run the grill for us. He masterfully managed to cook 12 spatchcocked chickens on three different charcoal grills at the same time. Truly impressive, but no pictures to prove it.

After dinner, it was bedtime. Not for humans, although I was quite prepared to crash, but rather for all our animals. Folks came with me as I did all of the evening chores. We feed the chicks in the brooder, we moved the field coop of older chickens, and finally feed the pigs. The pigs were a big hit. They have great personalities and it is fun to watch a hog pig out on dinner. I must send a shout out to Dimitri, who managed to test my electric fence for me. I have been way too chicken to touch it and find out how much it hurts. But Dima, with great fortitude (and let’s be honest here, ignorance), backed into the fence and went for a bit of a ride. After a couple of minutes of Russian curses, he informed me that the fence works just fine. Thanks, Dima – now I know.

Everyone hit the hay after that -an afternoon of listening to me will mellow out anyone. Actually, folks sent up tents on our lawn. Seeing 8 tents on our lawn is not my usual morning view. The next morning, people milled around in a very relaxed ranch-state of mind. I could tell that people really didn’t want to head back to city life. But that’s ok, they, and you, can come up anytime.

The best quote of the weekend was said by Lauren:  “We were  in a rush to get here (to the ranch), figuring that we were holding up the weekend’s schedule, but once I got here I realized that this was just a weekend at a friend’s house with a whole bunch of friends I didn’t know I had.”

That for me encapsulates everything we are doing here and everything we want to continue doing.

Get thee outside

As your local self-proclaimed expert on spring time experiences, I recommend that you go outside ASAP.  I base this recommendation on the glorious day that was yesterday.  Truly, a day for rejuvenating the soul after winter. The sky was a deep tranquil blue.  You can see the pulse of the tree quickening in the color of its leaves; each leaf is bright green, eager to accept the nourishing sunlight. The range is growing so quickly that it feels as if the earth is heaving up at you. The range is in a race to grow while there is still moisture in the soil, but it isn’t a onerous race.  For the range plants, it is a joy to grow with abandon, just like it is a joy for a dog to run full out.

As you walk through the joy of springtime, bare your arms to the sun, let the sun chase away all of the cold drafty chills and disappointments of winter. Let the outrageous passion and energy of spring seep into your soul and buoy up all of your hopes and dreams.

April prepares her green traffic light and the world thinks Go.  ~Christopher Morley, John Mistletoe

Back in the saddle again

I have the Arrowsmith song running through my head as I write this. Odd.

Wow, time off is nice. Not that I actually sat around all that much, but I gave myself leeway to let some things slide a little bit. Not writing here on the blog was great, but I have been storing up all of my blog ideas and am ready to start posting them. I wanted to have them all written out so I could edit them carefully, but that didn’t happen. I was having too much fun hanging out with all of family during the holidays. I also let some emails slide, but I took care of all of that this morning. So I am current and ready to dig into some new things.

First on my list is to send out a newsletter to all of my subscribers. This is a great way to stay in touch with us without having to get the blog every day. Feel free to sign up if you like.

Next on my list is to figure out which weekend in May we are going to have our big tour/BBQ ranch event. This year, I am thinking of trying to recreate some aspects of our wedding, like the RV park and pig in the ground roast. I have this vision of dozens of people camping, hanging out, touring the ranch, and eating some ridiculously good, local (as in raised within feet of where you are eating it) food.

Finally, I got a Droid for Christmas, which has me giddy like a little boy with his first BB gun.  So I want to figure out how I can take videos with the droid and upload them, so y’all can see what the ranch is like is full living color.

Soon I hope to have all of my desk work done so I can start concentrate on some ranch work that has been patiently waiting for me to attend to it. Soon oh so soon, back to the real ranch work.

Ok, it is time to sign off and accomplish something.

Break time (for the holidays)

Well, I will be back at the beginning of the new year.

Yep, the holidays have certainly snuck up around here. It is tough to believe that it is possible for that to happen with the massive amounts of hype surrounding the season, but somehow it turns out that Christmas is only a couple of days away. Christmas is my second favorite holiday after Thanksgiving. Both the holidays involve the gathering of the family at the ranch and plenty of good food and company. I enjoy my semi hermit-like life, but it is always great to have the family here, even if they do interrupt my routine.

I will be stepping away from the blog for the next week to 10 days in order to enjoy the holiday fully. Before I depart, I wanted to leave you with some things to look forward to as well as some things to look back upon.

Anticipate:

  • An updated “About Us” section of the blog
    • I plan to dig into all of our production practices as well as our philosophies and principles
  • Some cool news about how our CSA is going to be run
    • Maybe a Paypal option for payment?
  • Videos
    • I think that Barbarosa is going to get itself a Flip camera for Christmas so we can start showing you in high def, all of the things that go on here at the ranch.
  • Goals and Aspirations for 2010
    • We try to be as open and honest as possible with our customers, so we are planning to list what we want to do in 2010. Hopefully, our wonderful customers can help us achieve our big goals for the upcoming year.

Review:

Enjoy your holidays as much as I intended to.

Help us welcome the newest Barbarosa Rancher

John, the other Barbarosa Rancher, is now a proud poppa. That’s right, Barbarosa Ranchers is now actively growing its own labor force.

Please help us welcome, John Patrick Raftery, to this world. Born on Oct 26, 2009 in Chico, CA. He was 20 inches long and 8 lbs. John and his wife are doing well, although a bit short on sleep right now.

PoppaJohn

Our Meat CSA is going live

Our meat CSA is going live next month! Yep, for the very first time ever, Barbarosa Ranchers is providing monthly deliveries of select samples of our scrumptious meats.  We have long known that there are more people interested in our meats than we can find at the farmer’s markets that we attend. People always tell us “try to sell at this store” or “talk to this restaurant, they would love your meat” and we do follow up on these tips, but they almost never pan out. The reality is that we aren’t big enough to sell to these places. They would eat us out of house and home in about two weeks.  Yet that is where many of our potential customers go to buy meats like we the ones we produce. So how do we connect with these customers?

We believe that our meat CSA (btw, CSA stands for community supported agriculture) is the best way to connect with them. Many people may have heard of veggie CSA, where you sign up at the beginning of a growing season and then receive weekly boxes containing your share of the week’s harvest. Usually, these boxes are delivered to a central location near the customer, most often a work place.  People love these CSAs because they get good, fresh, and random veggies delivered to a convenient location every week.

Well, we are translating that last sentence to read “People love the Barbarosa Rancher’s meat CSA because they get a semi-random meat selection that is sustainably and locally raised, tastes fantastic, and delivered to a convenient location every month.”

Here is how we are going to run our meat CSA:

The general idea:

Our meat CSA is designed to fill your freezer with enough meat goodness to feed you and your family for a month. When you start to get nervous about not having any more meat, along we come to deliver another month’s supply of meat. Every month is going to bring you a few meat surprises because we want to you “eat your way around the animal.” The cuts that you might not buy regularly are sometimes the most flavorful cuts on the animal. And since you are buying them at the CSA price, this is the cheapest way to try them out.

How it Works (Nutshell version):

Sign up — You sign up for a 6 or 12 month membership share and pay 50% upfront.

Deliveries — We meet once a month at a pre-determined location and exchange meat for cash. We will deliver meat from Redding south to Sacramento and over to the Bay Area.

Details —That’s about it except of course for the details, for which you need to read our CSA page.

How it Works (Full version):

Check out our CSA page.

How to Sign Up:

Just send me an email and we will get you going.

Our meat CSA is going live next month! Yep, for the very first time ever, Barbarosa Ranchers is providing monthly deliveries of select samples of our scrumptious meats.  We have long known that there are more people interested in our meats than we can find at the farmer’s markets that we attend. People always tell us “try to sell at this store” or “talk to this restaurant, they would love your meat” and we do follow up on these tips, but they almost never pan out. The reality is that we aren’t big enough to sell to these places. They would eat us out of house and home in about two weeks.  Yet that is where many of our potential customers go to buy meats like we the ones we produce. So how do we connect with these customers?

We believe that our meat CSA (btw, CSA stands for community supported agriculture) is the best way to connect with them. Many people may have heard of veggie CSA, where you sign up at the beginning of a growing season and then receive weekly boxes containing your share of the week’s harvest. Usually, these boxes are delivered to a central location near the customer, most often a work place.  People love these CSAs because they get good, fresh, and random veggies delivered to a convenient location every week.

Well, we are translating that last sentence to read “People love the Barbarosa Rancher’s meat CSA because they get a semi-random meat selection that is sustainably and locally raised, tastes fantastic, and delivered to a convenient location every month.”

Here is how we are going to run our meat CSA:

The general idea: Our meat CSA is designed to fill your freezer with enough meat goodness to feed you and your family for a month. When you start to get nervous about not having any more meat, along we come to deliver another month’s supply of meat. Every month is going to bring you a few meat surprises because we want to you “eat your way around the animal.” The cuts that you might not buy regularly are sometimes the most flavorful cuts on the animal. And since you are buying them at the CSA price, this is the cheapest way to try them out.

How it Works (Nutshell version):

Sign up — You sign up for a 6 or 12 month membership share and pay 50% upfront.

Deliveries — We meet once a month at a pre-determined location and exchange meat for cash

Details —That’s about it except of course for the details, can be found on our CSA page.

CSA Shares

A “whole share” is our basic share. We figure it is enough meat to feed a family for a month. If you aren’t a family, then you can look at our half or quarter share.  Which every share works for you, you can look forward to months of great meat and great meals.

Whole Share

Half

Share

Quarter Share

Total Lbs per month

40lbs

20lbs

12lbs

Price/lb

$7.00

$7.50

$8.00

Included in the Share

%

Lbs/Month

Lbs/Month

Lbs/Month

Whole Items:

For the most part, this will be our chickens, but eventually might include other poultry as well.

25%

10

5

3

Steaks:

Cuts that can be grilled, broiled or pan fried, like rib eyes, lamb chops or pork chops

15%

6

3

2

Roasts:

These are cuts that need some love to bring out their amazing flavor. Our roasts can be turned into carnitas, pot roasts, vindaloos, and so much more.

25%

10

5

3

Ground:

Who doesn’t love a good hamburger? But have you ever tried a lamb burger? Or made meatloaf out of pork and beef? This is your chance to explore the culinary possibilities of ground meats.

35%

14

7

4

Total $ per month

$280

$150

$96

Total:

6 month membership

$1,680 for 240 lbs

$900 for  125 lbs

$576 for 72lbs

Total:

12 month membership

$3,360 for 480 lbs

$1,800 for 240lbs

$1,152 for 144lbs

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